Marriage: The Bane Of Existence For Sexual And Gender Minorities In India

Why is marriage a prerequisite for women (cis or AFAB folx) to be finally envisaged as respectable members of society? In communal terms, much like Austen promised, it is a universally acknowledged belief that a young woman must be in want of a handsome eligible young man. This older-than-dinosaurs theory has been a prevalent legacy passed on as a privilege from the pagan gods.

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From the tradition of cutting the clitoris of those assigned female at birth for systematic oppression to Monique Wittig’s plea of revisiting the prototypical classification of bodies and sexualities without the retreat to proprietary biology, our society finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The process of seeing women as ‘the other’ in comparison with men has gradually infused patrilineal favourability in our societal perception. We are an unquestionably male-dominatedset ruled by pre-established counterproductive gender roles. These scripted gender roles work in tandem with conventionalists to essentially throttle any and all possibilities of a do-over. 

Why is marriage a prerequisite for women (cis or AFAB folx) to be finally envisaged as respectable members of society? In communal terms, much like Austen promised, it is a universally acknowledged belief that a young woman must be in want of a handsome eligible young man. This older-than-dinosaurs theory has been a prevalent legacy passed on as a privilege from the pagan gods. For India particularly, marriage is like an insurance policy for women. It’s a source of safety, security and back up or at least that’s what most parents think. Sure, the girl’s parents have to basically sell their kidneys in order to pay dowry, the yearly gifts (installations) on every festival, birthday and anniversary, but that price is nothing superfluous when compared to the satisfaction of giving your daughter away to strangers, right? It is painfully apparent, especially when she (or ‘they’ taking in consideration, the non-binary people) doesn’t want to. Much like everything in our lives, it is a general assumption, a norm that every girl, from the age of 23, has to get wedded and sent off to her husband’s place. Upon further analysis, if you really want to go dark side then remember The Holocaust? You know, the infamous times from which the LGBT+ symbol of a pink triangle emerged? Carefully bypassing the woeful fate of homosexual men, all the German lesbians were forcefully married as they were nothing more than means of ensuring reproduction of the Nazis (Dr Klaus Müller 11). That ideology has long since been abandoned by the Germans and borrowed by us.

Even the thought of women identifying as homosexual, ace, intersex and non-binary, whether cisgender or anatomically XX chromosome, is detested and buried in misplaced social responsibility. A common argument against this position is traditional values but evaluate this: 1 out of 100 people turn out to be asexual and 1 out of 200 people are intersex. Now congregate these facts with our population. (Source 1) (Source 2)

Approximately, 1.3 crore people in India are asexual and 50 lakh people are intersex. And that’s the count sans lesbians. Do the math. All of them have been or will be forced to get married since “that’s how our society works”. With negligible recognition to their sexual orientations and gender identity, they are poignantly coerced into getting married. Orientations like lesbianism, asexuality and intersex (even trans men and non-binary people but that’s an entirely different nightmare) are put aside when a family chooses their social position over their daughter’s individual choice. Whenever a girl says that she never wants to get married and leave her family, her statement is carelessly shrugged off by the preconception that every unmarried girl says that in childish innocence. Admittedly, while most are modest and shy with respect to this matter, you must have an idea as to what happens when a girl actually doesn’t want to. According to research, many rural asexual women are mentally conditioned to believe that marriage is their way of giving back to society. (Source 3)

Women are fewer commodities in our society. They are guilt-tripped into marriage and end up being helpless in their social standing as dutiful wives. They are expected to fulfil their marital obligations for “Pati Parmeshwar”. It is practised, regardless of their own lack of attraction to their husbands and without the presence of their consent. The society unrepentantly disregards their personal wants and pleas of not wanting to get married. Think of marriage in terms of a transaction, like the barter system, which was considered the earliest method of coexistence and hence proved ineffective. We’re just trapped in the same ordeal of social propriety and gender essentialism from decades. These circumstances are nothing short of horror movies for intersex, trans and non-binary people. Since their outward appearance and gender identity appear (read: assumed) feminine, keeping in alliance with gender norms, their anatomical differences become the cause of immeasurable pain (physically and emotionally) after marriage. As such, those having Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) are particularly abused for the ‘faults’ in their stars.

Furthermore, our predicament is exacerbated by the insufficient laws dealing with marital rape in our judicial system. Not unlike a foreboding sentence for all lesbians, asexual women and intersex people. According to the legal authorities of India, apparently, a deeply tragic and common phenomenon such as Marital Rape is non-existent and ineffable. The undeniable truth that many women are strong-armed into marriage, despite their adamant refusal, is ultimately trivial to their surmised role in the development of the society. While the awfully inclusive Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 stipulated the right of adoption for trans women, in actuality, the same will only be legitimate if the trans woman is married. Much like how the appeal of bail made by, the resolutely not guilty of treason, Safoora Zargar has been dismissed; the reality of marital rape also remains unheard and blindly excluded from the hefty laws of our Constitution. It is only considered a criminal offence when the wife is aged between 15-18 years old, why a girl that young is allowed to take the plunge into the socio-political entrapment, that is marriage, remains inexplicable.(Source 4) (Source 5)

*Women is used as a term in this article to denote not only ciswomen, but also those assigned female at birth/ those who have vaginas and are thus forced into the gender roles of a ‘woman’.

About the author

Aakshi Srivastava

There's a very thin line between good and evil, those who can respect the balance understand the necessity of change. An advocate of Social Realism, feminism and LGBT+ rights. Follow me on my Twitter account- @AakshiSrivasta1.
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